by guest blogger Maya Rodale, author of smart and sassy romance novels
I started reading romance novels in college at my mother’s insistence (long-ish story). As a student of women’s literature, she declared that I couldn’t legitimately receive such a degree without reading the most popular and profitable books by women, for women, about women. Of all time. Ever. But I was a literature snob and scoffed at her suggestion. Like many a romance heroine, I resisted before finally surrendering to the pleasure to be found in those colorful mass-market paperbacks where the rogues are dashing, the heroines are daring, and true love always triumphs.
These days, most of my time is spent writing romance novels, day after day, word after word, first kiss after first kiss. There are tremendous perks to this job—working from home, not having to wear pants, being the boss lady of my own fictional worlds where all the (paper) people do whatever I tell them to. In the process of creating these books, I can almost forget why I—and millions of other people—read romance novels.
But then, it was one of those days: grey skies, frigid temperatures, and some heartbreaking news. I cried, I wrote in my diary, I talked to a friend—I did all those things you’re supposed to do. But the only thing that lessened the ache was a romance novel—a story written to be utterly absorbing, and that I knew with 100,000 percent certainty would end happily. I was lucky in that I happened to be deeply immersed in an excellent series of historical romances. For a few hours, I was so completely focused on the heroine’s dangerous crime solving and sexy romantic entanglements that I forgot about the news that had me crying in the middle of West Elm. And I was so damn grateful for the story that swept me away when I needed it most.
According to a survey of romance readers I conducted, entertainment, relaxation, and escape are the reasons most often cited for reading romance novels. They’re our vacation reads, a way to pass the time in line at the post office, or a treat at the end of a hard day. Sometimes, they are even a lifesaver.
Critics say romance novels are fluffy, escapist literature—as if that’s a bad thing. As if we should sit down, have a stiff drink, and dwell on the depressing. But I say romance novels are like a cold medicine that lets you get a good night’s sleep or a pain reliever that takes the edge off your headache. They’re the little bit of help and hope we need to carry on.
Romance readers know our real-life problems are still there when the story is over. But in those few hundred pages, we’ve not only had a rest, but we’ve had the vicarious experience of confronting challenges and triumphing, too. When the story is over, we can return to our lives a little bit stronger and a hell of a lot more hopeful that everything will be fine.
This week on Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen, my romance-writing friends and I are taking over to share personal stories about how these books have transformed our lives. They’re best known for the naughty bits, but romance novels have so much to teach and inspire us about love, self-acceptance, hope, and HAPPINESS…all ideas I examine in my new book Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained, which looks at the secret history of why these books have been scorned and why they’ve also been the salvation for millions of women readers through the centuries.
Maya Rodale began reading romance novels in college at her mother’s insistence. She is now the best-selling and award-winning author of smart and sassy romances. Her latest book is Dangerous Books For Girls: The Bad Reputation of Romance Novels Explained. Follow her on Twitter @mayarodale.